Drug Laws Changing

One of the biggest political issues today involving the legal field is around drug laws in the United States. Many people feel like the drug laws in this country are too strict. Millions of people are in jail across the country for buying or selling drugs. However, there are other people who are able to do things much more damaging to society and get out earlier.

Over time, it is vital that this area is looked at by those in the legal field. However, the legal profession as a whole is faced with some big issues. Some states are starting to take matters into their own hands by legalizing certain types of drugs.

Legal Implications

For many states, one of the largest costs in operating their budget is the cost of housing inmates. Many people believe that with less strict drug laws, more money within the state could be devoted to things like education. However, there are other people who believe that this is a great source of spending for the state to keep drug dealers off of the streets.

In certain states, some drugs are only legal in specific situations. These states are seeing a major decrease in crime related to drug offenses and it is saving them money. It will be interesting to see if other people follow suit.

Legalizing Drugs?

There are many people who have concerns about legalizing drugs for a variety of reasons. Drugs have a lot of damaging properties in them. The people who are not in favor of drugs tend to think that people cannot make decisions for themselves. This is a debate that is going to continue in the years ahead across the country.

Unhealthy Lifestyles

One of the biggest issues for many people today is living a lifestyle that is not healthy. Over time, people need to realize that the choices they make are not healthy with the foods they eat. A huge percentage of the population is obese, and it takes immediate action to mitigate any risk in this area to your health.

This is why so many people think it is crazy that drugs are illegal. People are allowed to be overweight, but they are not allowed to do drugs that make them feel better. This is a debate that will not be settled for many years, and the legal profession has a lot of work to do with these changes.

Read More: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/sessions-sentencing-memo/526029/

Law School Debt

One of the biggest issues facing students today is student loan debt. A lot of students are going into a career field that they believe will lead to high pay and great benefits. However, a lot of these industries are not growing at all. There are many people who are struggling financially because of this.

At one time, becoming a lawyer was one of the best things that any young person could do. However, a lot of people today are finding that the legal industry is saturated with people who have already graduated from law school. It is vital for students to understand these trends before they spend all of that time and money trying to get a job in this field.

Cost of School

Any additional degree program is going to cost a lot of money. The biggest problem with law school is that it is long and costs a lot of money. Just because a student graduates from law school, this does not mean that they will pass the BAR exam. Not only that, but passing the exam does not guarantee a job in the field.

Over time, students have to look at the cost versus the benefits of getting what they want. There are many people who are excited about the changes that are going on in the industry today, but these changes are not necessarily great for new graduates.

Student Loans

There are a lot of students who are graduating from law school with high levels of student loan debt. This becomes a major financial issue for them later on in life. Not only that, but many graduates end up joining a different field where the pay is not as high. For many graduates, they are stuck with student loan payments without having a high salary. This is not a good place to be in, especially when it comes to buying a home or raising a family.

Future Trends

In the coming years, many people are hoping that the overall cost of college will go down. However, few people actually think that this will be the case. Many students are tired of paying high fees just to get a law degree without having better job prospects.

There are many people who believe that the legal field is going to have a shortage of graduates in the years ahead. It will be interesting to see how the industry responds.

Texas Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling on Gay Marriage Benefits

Almost exactly two years ago, in late June 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal and states with bans against gay marriage were acting unconstitutionally. Gay marriage is a hot-button topic in the United States; even though gay marriage is legal, many American citizens continue to argue against same-sex marriage.

Texas is known for having staunchly conservative stances towards many controversial issues. Although citizens of every state, including Texas, are not exclusively against or in support of gay marriage, the Texas Supreme Court has taken a stance against gay marriage.

Married couples in the United States are recipients of several benefits, including saving taxes through joint returns, being exempt from gift and estate taxes for belongings left to spouses, spousal Social Security benefits, among many others. Texas’ Supreme Court recently ruled that couples in same-sex marriages are not privileged to benefits provided for marriage through the United States government.

The 2015 United States Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriages was legally known as Obergefell v. Hodges. Although this case did make it legal for gay and lesbian couples to legally tie the knot, spousal benefits such as Social Security payments to significant others were not taken care of. Because the 2015 Supreme Court ruling did not touch on spousal benefits, the Supreme Court of the state of Texas found that spousal benefits were not due to same-sex married couples.

Same-sex marriage controversy in Texas dates back four years ago to 2013. Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker granted spousal benefits to a same-sex couple, in which the city they lived in approved of same-sex marriage. Mayor Parker was sued by Texas state Republicans and two Houston citizens, reversing the decision of granting them benefits as a married couple.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and social group Texas Values broke news as publicly supporting the court’s recent decision, whereas LGBT groups in Texas have publicly opposed the decision. LGBT legal support group Lambda Legal stated they plan to appeal the oppositional ruling made June 30th, 2017, in Texas’ Supreme Court up to the level of United States Supreme Court. However, because the Supreme Court hears only a tiny fraction of cases forwarded to their jurisdiction, the recent ruling is likely to go unchanged.

Finding a Lawyer

There are a lot of people today who need legal advice. With all of the changes going on in the industry, it is hard for people to keep up in some cases. One of the biggest changes that is happening is the move to online legal advice. Every industry is changing with the new options that are available online. This is especially true in the legal world. Here are some of the ways that legal advice online can impact the industry in the future.

Cheaper Services

One of the reasons that legal advice is so expensive is that there are few options in many areas. If you want to get legal advice, you generally have one or two places to go in small towns. With more competition online, the legal service teams will have to lower their prices in order to compete.

Overall, this is a good thing for the industry. Far too many people have to spend thousands of dollars for simple legal advice. This is hurting a lot of families who need quality legal advice at an affordable price.

Better Service

Another great thing about offering legal services online is that the customer service will be better. Instead of having to wait for someone to get back with you over a couple of days, you can generally get legal advice almost instantly. A lot of people are excited about all of the potential changes that are going to happen because of this shift.

If you are stuck in a legal issue, it is nice to be able to go online and find a lawyer who fits within your budget and timeline. Not only that, but you can read online reviews before you go out and decide who you want to hire.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of people who do not like to deal with lawyers. With all of the changes that are starting to take place in the industry, now is the time to understand how these changes will impact you. Many people are excited about the future of the industry. In the coming years, many experts believe that more innovation is needed in order to keep the industry moving forward. For consumers, all of these changes either mean more options or less expensive services. This is great for an industry that has a lot of negative connotation from many people.

Legal Issues affecting the State of Texas

Donald Trump is making headlines again after appointing dozens of people to fill vacant positions in the federal government. Most of the positions are legal ones especially the appointees of circuit courts. He has also appointed ambassadors from Singapore to Alabama. However, he has singled out Texas as none of the vacant legal positions have been filled in the State. In the State of Texas alone, there are vacant positions such as two slots for the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, 11 district judgeships as well as four district attorney seats. By this date eight years ago when Barrack Obama was the president, most of these legal vacant positions had already been filled. In fact, statistics show that Donald Trump has done half of the work that Obama had completed by this time. As for appointing the U.S. attorneys, this is usually a slow process. While Trump made his first appointment on 12th June, Barack Obama made his nominations on 15th May. As for George. W. Bush, he made these appointments on 1st August.

Like earlier mentioned, the number of vacant positions in Texas are noticeable. In fact, the state of Texas is known for having the largest numbers of U.S. attorney districts in the United States. A recent report detailed that the Southern District of Texas is one of the busiest districts in the United States. For instance, in a case of 52 judicial emergencies, nine of them were filed in the state of Texas alone. However, there is a vacancy in this state that has been unoccupied since the year 2011. Legal experts feel that the president should do something to fill these vacancies as they are slowing the process down. Also, some experts feel that given the size of Texas and its legal problems, this is a serious issue. It’s also important to remember that most of Trump supporters are from this state.

This has made critics say that Trump is not interested in implementing the things that he promised during the campaign. Instead, he is seen to use them as a way to gain political relevance. It’s important to note that all U.S. attorneys happen to be political appointees with the presidential input. They have to pass through a vetting process that is usually carried out by the U.S. Senate. There are legal issues in Texas such as drug trafficking, immigration as well as border security. This explains the importance of these appointments.

Related: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/may/9/aclu-issues-texas-travel-alert-anti-sanctuary-law/

The Supreme Court Reinstates the Travel Ban


President Donald Trump promised the Americans that they would work together to make America great again. True to his words, he tried to implement some promises but he was set back by some court rulings. However, the president and his followers have something to smile about as the Supreme Court on Monday decided to overturn the rulings of the other courts. The president had imposed a travelling ban that affected nationals from six Muslim countries. Donald Trump defended his actions as aligning to national security but his opponents went to court terming this as discriminatory. The executive order had been issued on 6th March this year.

The order was reinstated on the last day of the current term as the judges are going for the summer vacation. However, they revealed that they would look into the issue thoroughly once they are back in August. This will be seen as a test for the presidential powers especially if the ban will be thrown out. Following the Supreme Court ruling, Donald Trump said that this is a win for the national security. He also emphasized that the ruling by the Supreme Court would also help the ban become effective than before. Trump continued to explain that it’s his responsibility as the president of the United States to keep away people who want to harm the nation. He also emphasized his love for people who have good intentions for the nation and its citizens. He also mentioned that the country was interested in hard working people.

These orders affect people from Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Syria meaning that they cannot be allowed into the country. The ban also implements a 120 days ban on refugees entering the United States. This ban was issued after an attack on major cities across the globe such as Berlin, Brussels, London and Paris where citizens of these nations were linked to these attacks. However, the court was challenged the federal courts. The courts ruled that the ban violated federal immigration laws. Federal courts also ruled that the ban was discriminating the Muslim people.

The Supreme Court on its part upheld the ban stating that any person from these six countries seeking to enter the United States should have a direct relative. If they don’t match these requirements, they will be prevented from entering the nation. The ban had been challenged by the Hawaii Attorney General. His name is Douglas Chin and has left his position since then.

Grand Jury Indicts Chicago Policy Officers in Laquan McDonald Case

The shooting of Laquan McDonald captured headlines when it was caught on tape. A grand jury is now indicting three Chicago policy officers. Felony charges are being brought against the three officers who are alleged to have engaged in a cover-up after the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in October of 2014.

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was the shooter highlighted in the video. Van Dyke is seen shooting the 17-year-old Laquan McDonald over a dozen times in a video that drew national attention and outrage. It wasn’t for another year after the shooting, however, that a court demanded the infamous dashcam video by unveiled to the public.

Officer Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the wake of the on-tape fatal shooting of the young Chicago teenager. The public and legal authorities were nonetheless troubled when the Chicago Police Department seemed to tell a radically different version of events than what the video apparently showed.

The very recent Cook County grand jury indictment alleges that three officers on the scene of the fatal shooting that October night in 2014 actively concealed evidence and misdirected attention in the subsequent police report on the fatal shooting. The grand jury’s indictment picked these three officers because they supposedly went far beyond simply subscribing to the code of silence that prevails among some police departments in the aftermath of a complicated case.

Police officers David March, Thomas Gaffney, and Joseph Walsh is each alleged to have misdirecting evidence and thwarting an independent criminal investigation from taking place. The grand jury asserts that the three officers knew that public scrutiny of the dashcam video would be problematic for the Chicago Police Department. The three officers are further being accused of conspiring with each other and preventing other law enforcement authorities from taking a hard look at the evidence for and against Officer Van Dyke’s conduct.

The three police officers indicted by the grand jury are being hit with three felony counts. Two have already been alluded to – conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The third charge is for official misconduct and indicts the officers for willfully obfuscating the evidence. In the meantime, the three officers are not being held in custody. That said, each is expected to appear at an arraignment in about two weeks.

Two of the three indicted Chicago police officers are no longer hired by the Chicago Police Department.

Changing The U.S. Tax Code Is A Challenge For Lawmakers

One of Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to throw out the old tax system and replace it with a simpler system that reduces individual and corporate tax payments. But revamping a tax code that is out of control and totally confusing is not a simple task. The Republican effort to overhaul the tax system has hit a wall in the House of Representatives, and the wall is full of spending cut battles and infighting.
The House Budget Committee is not sending a budget resolution to the floor because conservation Republicans are adding billions of dollars in spending cuts to the basic blueprint of the budget. Trump needs House and Senate approval of a budget, so Republicans can avoid Democratic opposition in the Senate. But the proposed spending cuts on food stamps and Medicaid are not helping matters, and a stalemate could be “the political blue plate special of the day.” A stalemate means no movement on tax reform.

The fly in the political ointment seems to be gaining strength, according to Washington insiders who say “no budget, no tax reform.” The conservation House Freedom Caucus wants to cut $400 billion from programs that help the poor. And the chairman of that committee wants another $295 billion in spending cuts. There is a Republican agreement in place that will top spending levels for defense and nondefense programs, but other spending cuts are necessary so the national deficit doesn’t increase when a new tax system becomes a reality.

But cutting programs for the poor to fund tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations is not the answer, according to many Democrats. And the initial Trump plan to cut tax rates from seven to three would not help average Americans if some of the itemized deductions go away. And there is talk of a reduction in itemized deductions, especially interest deductions.

There are House and Senate members who want a consumer-driven tax system or a consumption tax. A consumption system would eliminate all the complex paperwork and most of the daily functions of the IRS. But a consumption tax system is not in the cards on Capitol Hill this year. And if the infighting continues in Congress, any new tax system is out of the question. But one way or another Trump will get a new tax code. But just putting any tax code in place may not help solve the long-term tax system debacle.

Two Attorneys General Sue President Trump

Two attorney generals have decided to sue President Trump for violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. The emoluments clause was put into the Constitution by the founding fathers to prohibit representatives of the federal government from granting titles of nobility or receiving gifts and emoluments in exchange for preferential treatment.

The aim behind the clause tucked into section nine of the U.S. Constitution is to prevent foreign powers from exercising undue influence on the national interests of the United States and its people. Founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton positioned their opposition to attempts at foreign gifts and bribery in history. Both England and France in the late 19th century had fallen victim to corruption from foreign governments, and the founding fathers didn’t want to see that happen to the United States.

Bringing things back to today’s politics, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh suspect that President Trump may be unconstitutionally profiting from his time in office. Both attorneys general sued the president earlier this month for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution and failing to divest himself fully from his family-operated business.

Technically, the two attorneys general are suing for President Trump’s alleged violation of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clause. (An emolument is an antiquated term for a profit or a fee that one collects while serving in office.) In the language of the original emoluments clause, a sitting president must have the expressed consent of Congress before taking any kind of inducement or gift from a foreign power.

Attorney General Racine opined that President Trump has rode roughshod of the anti-corruption laws included in the U.S. Constitution. Both attorneys general suing the president are doing so partly to show that nobody is above the law. Each also believes that the state’s attorneys general have a binding duty to ensure that there are safeguards along the way to thwart federal politicians from bending the rules for material advantage.

Both Attorney General Racine and Attorney General Frosh have sought an injunction to prevent President Trump from continuing to violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Many from around the country forcefully assert that the president’s duty is foremost to the American people; personal economic advantage should not enter into the picture. Attorney General Frosh concedes that he is spearheading the lawsuit partly to prevent this behavior from becoming more normalized.

Republicans Postpone Senate Vote on Healthcare

Republicans in the Senate have decided to postpone a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. The bill is the next chapter in an attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ushered in to existence by democrats under President Obama. The newer Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 shepherded by Senate Republicans is the follow-up to the House of Representative’s American Health Care Act of 2017 passed under the stewardship of Congressman Paul Ryan.

Democratic senators have been vehement in their opposition to the Senate’s healthcare reform proposition, but it wasn’t until Republican senators like Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Rand Paul began voicing their misgivings that Republican leadership understood the extend of opposition to the proposal. On Tuesday, June 27th the Republican-controlled Senate lead by majority leader Mitch McConnell decided to postpone a vote on healthcare reform under after the July 4th recess.

Sources claim that Republicans were backed in to forcing a postponement of a vote on healthcare due to opposition within the Republican party. An additional inducement to postpone came from President Trump, who called Republicans to the White House in order to reconcile the divisions among their own ranks. The trouble is that Republicans have only a slim majority in the U.S. Senate – as opposed to the House of Representatives where Republicans enjoy a more robust majority – and any Republican opposition among Republican senators could greatly complicated speedy passage of H.R. 1628, or the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.

Senator McConnell claimed that postponing the vote until after the July 4th recess was informed by a desire to make other senators feel comfortable with the bill and its implications. Opponents across the aisle claim that Senator Mitch McConnell didn’t have the necessary votes to see the bill’s passage this week and decided to take his chances until after the July 4th recess. Democratic senators, in fact, are unanimous in their opposition to the Senate’s healthcare overhaul.

Another factor that swayed the debate in democrat’s favor was the fact that the Congressional Budget Office recently reported that the Senate’s healthcare overhaul would leave over 20 million Americans without insurance over the next ten years. The new Senate bill would, however, chisel over $300 billion from the federal budget over that time frame, which is music to the ears of conservative politicians concerned about the federal deficit. Senators return July 10th.

Trump’s Attorney General May Go After Medical Pot Providers

Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama senator, and the current Attorney General of the United States is shaking the political trees and what is falling from those trees isn’t pretty. Sessions is a hard-nosed politician with extremely conservative views when it comes to criminal activity and the legalization of marijuana.


Session’s performance in front of Congress recently wasn’t as forthright as some lawmakers wanted it to be. But his performance did show a man who is not afraid to protect himself, and his reputation, at all costs. Some Washington insiders say Sessions is pushing hard to seek the maximum penalty in all criminal cases and to battle legalizing cannabis in order to protect his reputation as a narrow-minded lawmaker with antiquated beliefs.

The new attorney general sent a letter to Congress recently. Sessions wants the lawmakers to help him override state marijuana laws. Members of Congress could do that by not renewing the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which stops the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana decisions. Sessions believes marijuana is the primary cause of the current drug epidemic in the United States. But the facts show opioid addiction, not marijuana use, is the catalyst for the drug epidemic. According to a Washington Post article, there are fewer cases of opioid addiction and abuse in states where marijuana use is legal.

And Jeff Sessions didn’t stop shaking the trees when he stopped federal prosecutors from using their discretion in fitting the punishment to the crime. Sessions wants the maximum penalty possible in all criminal cases. Sessions wants to stop the recent crime surge in America. But statistics show between 2004 and 2014 crime fell in spite of the fact that prosecutors were treating crime with a sense of understanding.

The truth is, the minimum sentencing procedures put in place by former Attorney General Eric Holder, did not jeopardize the American public. In fact, for the first time in four decades’ crime fell. The severely over-populated prisons in the U.S. were less crowded between 2013 and 2016 because low-level drug offenders did not serve long prison terms.

But Jeff Sessions is on a mission to increase the prison population problem. U.S. attorneys must throw the book at all defendants even though some prosecutors think that is a bad idea. Throwing the book at low-level criminals is an attack on American taxpayers, according to the Washington Post and other news agencies.

Google Sued Record $2.7 Billion in Landmark Antitrust Case

The tech giant Google has recently been sued a staggering $2.7 billion by European antitrust officials. Announcement of the fine came on June 27th. Margaret Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, fined Google 2.4 billion euros on Tuesday. The move to fine Google so heavily provides a stark counterpoint to the lax attitudes taken by regulatory authorities in the United States.

The European Union’s antitrust officials grabbed headlines by forcing Apple to pay over $14 billion in back taxes that the antitrust commission felt was Ireland’s due. The more recent judgment with Google goes one step further. To date, the fine levied against Google is more than twice the amount paid out by the second-highest fined corporation.

Margaret Vestager claimed in a press conference that Google violated market competitiveness when Google favored its own products over those of its competitors. European Union antitrust authorities made the claim that Google seized advantage of its monopoly-like clout in online searches to steer customers towards Google’s proprietary shopping business.

This is a serious charge with serious implications. Google has 90 days to pay the fine of $2.7 billion or face more serious fines that could have an impact on Google’s business. Although Google pulls in approximately $90 billion in annual revenue, the future looks somewhat bleak for the tech giant if they put off paying the fine levied by the European Union’s chief antitrust authority.

Executives at Google are taking the European Union at its word when it says that it plans on fining the parent company of Google, Alphabet Incorporated, as much as five percent of its daily revenue if the fine is not paid on time and in full. The European Commission is the official agency making these threats, and it alleges that Google flagrantly violated competitive laws in Europe.

How does Google do that exactly? Some claim that Google bolstered the search results of company-affiliated products when other products may have been better for consumers. Margaret Vestager informed reporters after her news conference exactly what had happened. She claimed that European consumers were denied real choice and effectively limited from taking advantage of recent innovations in the tech industry.

Astute macroeconomic observers believe that the European authority’s throwing down the gauntlet by singling out Google represents a more assertive posture in regulating the brave new world of online sales. In the meantime, Google is disputing the fine amid stock downturns.

Studies Find Law Firms May be Vulnerable to Cyberattacks

A cyber security startup called LogicForce recently released a report on the vulnerability of law firms to cyberattack. The results are pretty unsettling. In the wake of the devastating cyberattack on DLA Piper, a multinational law firm, law firms from around the country want to know how vulnerable their systems are to cyberattacks and ransomware.

The report released by LogicForce found that law firms are especially vulnerable to all kinds of cyberattacks. Disturbingly, the study found that corporate and government-affiliated law firms are also at risk. There may be billions of dollars at stake in the sense that ransomware could imperil huge swaths of a corporate client’s assets.

Some of the attacks may have already taken place. The LogicForce study showed that two-fifths of law firms were unaware that their systems were breached. Most law firms may be at risk since the study also found that the size, type, and complexity of the law firm had little or no bearing on whether that law firm was targeted for a sophisticated cyberattack.

Fewer than one-fourth of law firms surveyed in the study had cyberattack insurance. Admittedly, this is a brave new world with evolving threats, but more law firms should be protecting their clients’ confidential information and protecting their own assets. The cost of doing otherwise is simply too high.

So, how many total law firms are being affected by this ongoing onslaught of cyberattacks. The LogicForce study indicated that upwards of 65% of the 200 surveyed law firms had been breached with at least one cyberattack.

If there’s a silver lining to all of this it’s that about half of law firms tend to have an incident response plan in the event of a cyberattack. This means that lawyers are prepared to respond to threats of varying sizes with different strategies. That’s good news for mitigating the damage, but more proactive measures are needed to ensure that cyberattacks are kept to a minimum.

A similar though more comprehensive study undertaken by the American Bar Association (ABA) found that half of law firms with staff of 500 or more lawyers had an adequate incident response plan while 60 percent of law firms with 100-499 lawyers had such a plan in place.

The takeaway from all of these studies is that law firms should consider taking out cyberattack insurance and developing graduated incident response plans in case a cyberattack takes place.

Karl Heideck’s Guide to Pennsylvania Employment Law for Small Businesses

Do you operate a Pennsylvania business? There are a few things that you need to keep in mind regarding your workforce. Although labor laws are constantly evolving, it’s critical that you stay ahead of the curve. Here’s how employment regulations influence your compliance obligations and corporate future.

Critical Laws That Impact Pennsylvanian Companies

Employment law has a broad scope that touches on a vast range of practices. Some of the regulations that bind you may be specific to your industry or business model. For instance, if you employ legal minors, or individuals under the age of 18, then you’ll need to adhere to the Pennsylvania Child Labor Law, or CLL.

Other provisions are more broadly applicable regardless who’s in your workforce. Understand these critical rules:

Minimum Wage and Labor Practices: The Fair Labor Standards Act

This law, also known as the FLSA, lays down the rules for when you need to pay your employees minimum wage. It also covers overtime, your tabulation and recording of work hours, and your duty to post FLSA requirements visibly at your premises.

Although the FLSA governs the minimum wage, it’s important to remember that these federal rules don’t override state laws. For instance, as of June 2017, most Pennsylvanian workers who earned minimum wage received the same $7.25 hourly rate that the FLSA set. Since 2016, however, individuals who worked for the state’s government or contractors that bid on state jobs earned $10.15 when making minimum wage. If you’re unsure whether you need to pay federal or state minimum wage, the general rule is to pick the higher of the two.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

Also known as the FMLA, this federal law ensures that eligible employees are allowed to take leave when it’s related to their family or medical needs. During someone’s FMLA leave, you don’t have to pay them, but you can’t penalize them by firing them from their job or cut back their group health insurance eligibility.

Employees covered by the FMLA may take as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. Valid reasons for taking leave include when workers

  • Need to care for their children, parents or spouses who have serious health problems,
  • Are having a new baby or need to care for one who was born less than a year ago,
  • Are adopting or foster parenting a new child,
  • Can’t perform their job due to their own serious health issues, or
  • Have military spouses, offspring or parents who get injured.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act

Employees are getting older, and employers must afford elderly workers the same rights that they’d grant their younger counterparts. If you fail to do so, you could face discrimination lawsuits or fines.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, dates back to 1967. It was originally intended to stop bosses who employ more than 20 people from discriminating against workers above the age of 40. Navigating this law isn’t as simple as determining whether you meet these basic tenets, however. For instance, if you operate a consumer research organization, then you may have a valid reason for restricting certain employment offers based on applicants’ ages or other demographics.

The ADEA applies to government institutions and contractors. As workforces grow progressively older, however, legislators may expand the law to protect more employees.

IRS Worker Classification

Should you withhold income and Social Security taxes from your workers’ paychecks? There’s a big difference between part-timers and independent contractors. Bodies like the IRS apply various rubrics to gauge how much control you exert over your workers and determine whether they should be classified as employees.

It’s critical that you understand these distinctions so that you don’t fall afoul of tax regulations. Also, remember that the federal unemployment taxes, or FUTA, that you must pay the IRS are separate from the sums required by the state’s unemployment contribution law.

Hiring, Harassment and Discrimination: Equal Employment Laws

While the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, or EEOC, may be the first agency you think of when it comes to employment discrimination claims, it’s not the only body with jurisdiction. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, or PHRC, also fields claims, and the state’s Human Relations Act may mean that you’re subject to anti-discrimination guidelines that the EEOC excludes.

The PHRC typically deals with companies that have between 4 and 14 workers, but the EEOC handles enterprises with at least 15. Both prohibit hiring and employment discrimination based on protected classes, like race, religion, sex, national origin, disability and age.

Situation-specific Laws

In addition to state-level laws, federal legislation and rules that only impact your industry, you may be subject to statutes imposed by your city, county or township. For instance, in 2017, Philadelphia barred employers who do business in the city from asking about new hires’ wage histories.

Employment law is exceedingly complex, but this isn’t an excuse for falling behind. Many small business owners find it helpful to consult with legal experts about their obligations.

More by Karl Heideck:  Career Spotlight: Litigation with Karl Heideck

About Karl Heideck

Karl Heideck is a Philadelphia-based contract attorney who works hard to help businesses do right by their employees. Karl Heideck firmly believes in assisting firms that strive to adhere to the spirit of the law and not just its letter.

Karl Heideck has practiced in various fields of employment and contract law for more than a decade. In addition to coming directly to the aid of companies that would otherwise struggle to master the complex nuances of their regulatory obligations, he routinely contributes to online news sources and blogs by explaining the evolution of Pennsylvanian law and its impact on businesses.

During the time he spent as a Pepper Hamilton LLP project attorney and a Conrad O’Brien associate, Mr. Heideck gained invaluable experience fighting for enterprises and individuals alike. Karl always looks forward to applying his exhaustive knowledge in challenging new cases.

For more information, connect with Karl Heideck on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Constitutional Law Expert Sujit Choudhry Presents an Analysis of Freedom of Speech

Understanding Freedom of Speech 

It’s important to comprehend the legal parameters of the freedom of expression in particular jurisdictions. The right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Human Rights Law. Freedom of speech is basically the right to articulate opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or societal sanctions. The United States Constitution is a document understood best in context form. There have been 27 amendments to the United States Constitution since its inception as America’s founding political document. The First Amendment primarily focused on protecting political as well as religious expressions. In essence, this Amendment was designed to protect the people from government pressure. As late as 1798, the scope of free speech was still up in the air when President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts. Based on the First Amendment, Americans receive protections from exercising their spiritual beliefs freely without government restrictions. Free speech and a free press are protected under the Constitution on citizens assembling peacefully, but the confusion in this scenario arises when people don’t understand what each of those two things means.

Understanding Hate Speech 

Americans across the board are widely in support of the idea of freedom of expression and yet there is a growing movement that is promoting social justice as well hate speech restrictions. From a legal point of view, those ideas entirely contradict. In a broader sense, there is no constitutional prohibition distinctively addressing hate speech despite the fact that some states have enacted laws that target hate speech. Hate speech may fall under the category of “Fighting Words and Offensive Speech.” According to the First Amendment of the Supreme Court of 1942, the spoken or written works that would likely cause violence are not protected under the law. The general statement against a group that causes emotional distress under the umbrella of free speech cannot be restricted.

Free Speech and College Campuses 

In the United States College Campuses, free Speech is more volatile. It’s believed that colleges are strongholds of democratic deliberation and critical thinking. Moreover, in the last decade dramatic shift in mutual attitudes at institutions of higher learning has been noticed. College environment illustrates why free speech is important and some universities remain devoted to protecting the free exchange of ideas. Many institutions in America are in support of freedom of expression simply because student activism has indeed changed school policies. The concept of human nature apparently helps people to relatively narrow the range of thought and ideas. The only way to broaden these perspectives is to challenge them with competing ideas in favor of emotional growth along with human understanding. Therefore, free speech is fundamental.

Role of Social Media 

The transfer of information was a slow process for the most of America’s history. It’s evident that the transmission of information from coast to coast took weeks before the existence of radio, telegram, and telephones. In the last 50 years, the internet has turned the world into universally acknowledged social standards and people can interact with an increasingly different pool of acquaintances. However, social media exposes a variety of political opinions in real time by bringing new as well different ideas right on your front door. The United States Constitution lawfully protects your fundamental human rights by valuing free speech and advocating generation of new ideas. This promotes respect and creates the safest public atmosphere for all citizens transversely to every political stripe and social issue.

Who is Sujit Choudhry? 

Sujit Choudhry is the Director of the Center for Constitutional Transitions. He is the I. Michael Heyman Professor of Law California University, Berkeley school of Law, where he served as a dean. Choudhry is an expert in comparative constitutional law. Previously Choudhry was the Cecelia Goetz Professor of Law at New York University, and the Scholl Chair at the University of Toronto. Born in New Delhi in 1970, Sujit is an internationally recognized authority on comparative constitutional law and politics. He holds law degrees from Oxford, Toronto, as well from Harvard. Professor Sujit was a Rhodes Scholar in which he served as law clerk to Chief Justice Antonio Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada. He combines a wide-ranging research agenda with in-depth field experience as an advisor to constitution building processes since he has lectured in over two dozen countries including Jordan, Nepal, Libya, South Africa, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Ukraine. Professor Choudhry generates and mobilizes knowledge in support of constitution building by assembling as well as leading international network of experts to produce thematic research projects that offer evidence-based policy options to practitioners and agenda-setting research. Up to date, the Center for Constitutional Transitions has worked with more than fifty professionals from more than twenty-five countries whereby it partners with a global network of multilateral organizations such as think tanks and NGOs.

Professor Choudhry’s research addresses a wide range of issues in comparative constitutional law along with politics. He has written extensively on Canadian constitutional law. The fields he has concentrated more includes; constitutional design as an instrument to manage the change from violent conflict to diplomatic democratic politics, constitutional design in ethnically divided into societies, constitutional design in the context of transition from authoritarian to democratic rule, basic methodological questions in the study of comparative law, minority and group rights, official language policy, Bills of rights and proportionality. He also discussed issues related to federalism, decentralization, and secession. Professor Choudhry has published over 90 articles, book chapters, working papers, along with reports. Central to such an endeavor, the books include; “The Migration of Constitutional Ideas” (Cambridge, 2006), “Constitutional Design for Divided Societies: Integration or Accommodation?”(Oxford, 2008), “The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution” (Oxford, 2016), and “The Constitution Making” (Edward Elgar, 2016). In collaboration with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Professor Sujit Choudhry is currently co-leading three global collaborative research projects. The projects are; “Dealing with Territorial Cleavages in Constitutional Transitions,” “Security Sector Reform and Constitutional Transitions in Emerging Democracies” and “Security Sector Oversight” which will yield a series of research and policy outputs to be published in 2017.

Interviews with Sujit Choudhry: 

Ideamensch

CEO/CFO

Daniel Budzinski Podcast

I-CONnect